And He Cried

I walked from on end of the pedestrain bridge to the other. There he was, sitting on the steel bridge, right where two staricases on his left and right, bring up a traffic of potential donors.

I had no intention to photograph him. I reached into my pockets. There was 10cents. I gave it to him, smiled and squatted next to him. A few pleasantries later, I shot a question about his artificial leg. (My eyes zoomed into his artificial leg…hmm good quality…looks like carbon fibre material, light and durable, unlike the metal, wood or plastic ones i've seen in other asian countries) He says it happened 13 years ago in a motor accident. He lost his job as a security guard. And its impossible to get work with one leg he says.

klgtu_0550t.jpg
"Siapa nak tolong?" (Who will help?) " Siapa nak bagi kerja?" (Who will give work?) Then his eyes swell up. He looks directly into my eyes. He puts his hands on my shoulder and he begins his story. His wife left him after the accident and ran away with her uncle. Her uncle? Yes, they became lovers and took off. He's got 5 children. All neglect him. I wonder why? what did he do? surely its not so simple. That was when the whiff of cheap whisky became more noticeable. (see how past impressions ignites ones judgement). Anyway by now he is sobbing. What kind of person would do that to me, he says. Then another tragedy. He went on to tell me that the uncle his wife ran away with raped his daughter!

" Dia lagi kongkek saya punya anak!" (He then fucked my daughter!) Well you can then imagine the emotions. He says his wife reported the incident and her uncle in now in jail. Welfare pays him rm150? and has rent and bills to pay and he can't make a living cause no one will hire him. I thought of the network of people he knows. Probably insignificant enough to help him. He is only 43. Surely something is out there for him. But it seems, no way out.

This as we all know, is only one side of a multi-faceted scenario :-O

nwlogo

Advertisements

Photographing in the Streets

I don't know his name, but it usually ends up like this.

Like how?
First i appear with intent. Meaning the camera is out and visible. i raise my arms and take a few shots. no one says anything. i move around and continue taking shots. My eyes meet theirs. i give them an appreciative smile. They smile back approvingly. i can now move and shoot without inhibitions. They continue with their motion. The sketch of the scene with my camera begins.

Who are they?
Human subjects, characters, people involved in my documentation. In the recent case, a couple of bus conductors/operators in medan pasar, nearby to Masjid Jamek. The old Selangor buses still operate many routes and the company utilises operators who yell and direct passengers into their bus.

You use the same approach each time?
Well…more a less. A well intended smile goes very far. Afterwards its about how much you can take from the scene before your actions alter the original scene too much. A bit of ebb and flow. You always have to step back and let it play out, before pressing to capture again. Other times you get engaged in a conversation so heart felt that, you can’t in the next second or so start shooting away. It seems wrong. So the conversation extends and maybe eventually to nothing and so after a while you move on.

Whats your recent heart felt conversation?
There was this guy in a wheel chair, selling keropok at the Masjid Jamek LRT station. I came from behind and noticed him. For a while i stood behind him observing the scene. Workers heading home brush past he waves his hand gripping the keropok packets. He notices me and turns. My cover is blown. The fly on the wall has to interact. A quick exchange of stories. I ask about his efforts. Although unproductive, he doesn’t want to people to pity him, so he doesn’t beg. He wants to put in effort to receive the returns. He recalls about all those ads he answered, turning him away when they saw he couldn’t walk. “Kaki macam ni, siapa nak bagi kerja?”

Why do they open up to you?
I think because I listen to them. I think they appreciate it when somebody wants to listen to their story. Also because everyone has no time for them and interactions are not genuine, especially new ones. So it is a small change.

A Closer Feel

Two continuous days. WOW that's an achievement!

I ventured into the Masjid Jamek (parts of area no.7, for visuals pls refer to my map posted earlier.)… and kinda…got my feet a little damp. I was scouting for a feel of the place and trying to understand what goes on between 1-6pm. I reigned myself from venturing out too far.

Geographically, I started to get the sense of proximity between Masjid Jamek, Masjid India and China Town. And subsequently, the next day when I ventured into Chow Kit (scattered…i know…well…because i had to satisfy other obligations, so i ended up there at 7am)…i also felt its 'close proximity' and its amazing how Chow Kit extends itself or rather merges into kampung Baru! (sorry you can see how naive i am about KL, despite being a resident here for 12 years)

Suddenly central kl felt different to me. The golden triangle or KL's Central Business District is undoubtedly surrounded by distinct communities that aggregate together, due to historical reasons like trade, governemnt resettlement initiatives and more recently social class and the infux of the new immigrant labour force.

KL Golden Triangle Map

klgtumap
Just thought this map might give those who are following my documentary, a visual idea of the areas covered in KLGTU

KLGTU covers the smaller traditional Golden Triangle, demarcated bt the ponts: Masjid Jamek, Renaissance and Bintang Walk and further expands the triangle to explore its impact on the surrounding communities as shown in the map above.

The larger KLGTU triangle is bound by PWTC, Ampang Park and Stadium Negara.

Frustration

frustrationAs i write this, its another day gone.Well going to go…Starting this project requires great passion and discipline. I find it very different from shooting a project outstation or in another country. Shooting in your backyard means you have to fit it into your schedule. Like today i have a full day food shoot assignment which means i can't give time to KLGTU. If I was working on this project in a foreign place, almost every waking hour i'd be out there shooting. Also distractions in your home base like friends and other commitments will always find its way to derail me from having a consistent work rate….sigh! But anyway i think the advantage outweighs the problems. I just got to get going…laterzzzz

KL Library

Several months back, while trying to do research on KLGTU i was introduced to the KL library by a foreigner friend. Sad, but if not for him i don't think any of my friends would know of its existence. Well, I have passed it many times without knowing its presence. But for those of you who don't know about it, its right next to Merdeka Square. A new and teched out building set amongst old trees. The glass building gives an amazing vista of the padang next to it and also acts like an airconditioned 'tree house' when you look through the other side onto a portion of its neighbour, an elevated highway that leads down to the old KTM.

Its Taking Shape

pavillion

18 months ago KLGTU (Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle Unplugged) was a revolving concept in my head. It was born from the desire to adequately document something where I personally have a home ground advantage. Hmmmm…oh…you can check out my other somewhat 'fleeting' projects at www.niktwong.com.

Home ground advantage? well from the point view of a photographer…a place where its cheap to hang around for months and years, a place where communications with my subject is not aided by a thrid party translator or 'fixers', a place where i know of its nooks and cranies right from the start…in short being a local!

KLGTU is also born from the fact that Malaysian cultural heritage and social documentary has a huge vaccum. Kuala Lumpur as a major South East Asian capital city has nearly nothing to show with regards to photoessays of social documentation on the citiy itself. A few photographers including foreign ones have produced works on Kuala Lumpur, but they are merely superficial works of glamour. errr…what i mean is…ummmm pretty pics of buildings and lrts and markets and street stalls and to an extent…thoughtless frames of city life…

0829_004_small.jpg Well KLGTU strives differently to give documentary value, social reportage and emotional aesthetics to Kuala Lumpur. In a city where opportunities for wealth creation are many, and like all emerging economies, where priority for wealth grows faster than social development and personal etiquette/personal evolution, let this journey begin 🙂